Lewis Hamilton took pole position for the Australian Grand Prix, heading a Mercedes front-row lockout for the first race of the 2019 Formula 1 season.
Team-mate Valtteri Bottas held an advantage of 0.457 seconds after the first runs in Q3, but Hamilton turned the tables with his second set of softs to post a 1m20.486s and secure pole.
Bottas failed to improve on his second run, meaning he ended up 0.112s behind as Hamilton claimed a sixth consecutive Melbourne pole.
After showing strongly in pre-season testing, the lead Ferrari of Sebastian Vettel was a massive 0.704s off pole position having never shown Mercedes-threatening pace this weekend.
Red Bull driver Max Verstappen split the Ferraris on his team’s debut weekend with Honda, lapping just over a tenth slower than Vettel.
That left Ferrari debutant Charles Leclerc fifth, 0.956s off the pace.
Despite lapping only 0.144s slower than team-mate Verstappen, Red Bull debutant Pierre Gasly was a high-profile victim of Q1 in 17th place.
He was one of only five drivers not to attempt a second run in the first segment in qualifying and was shuffled down amid the late flurry of improvements, describing the strategy as “a bit optimistic”.
As anticipated, Haas led the midfield with Romain Grosjean taking sixth place ahead of team-mate Kevin Magnussen.
One of the stars of qualifying was debutant Lando Norris, who qualified eighth and 1.818s off the pace after a strong performance in both Q2 and Q3.
Kimi Raikkonen was ninth, just 0.010s behind Norris, on his Alfa Romeo return and Sergio Perez claimed 10th for Racing Point.
The two Renault drivers were both eliminated in Q2, with Nico Hulkenberg 11th after being pushed into the dropzone by Perez, who lapped 0.030s faster.
Hulkenberg had gone out for a second run, but aborted that effort due to what he reported as a boost pressure dropout. He had to rely on his first run, which was compromised by time lost in the final sector.
Daniel Ricciardo was 0.008s slower than Hulkenberg after being unable to make a big enough improvement on his second run to remain in the top 10, admitting he didn’t have the confidence early in the lap after traffic compromised his out-lap.
Alex Albon was the fastest of the Toro Rosso drivers in 13th place, 0.138s faster than F1 returnee team-mate Daniil Kvyat, who was 15th – the duo sandwiching the second Alfa Romeo of Antonio Giovinazzi.
Racing Point’s Lance Stroll was quickest of those eliminated in Q1. He had momentarily jumped up to eighth after being one of the first drivers to set a time on his second set of tyres before being bumped into the dropzone by late improver Ricciardo.
Stroll complained over the radio about being impeded by another car during the session, which he identified as either a Haas or a Toro Rosso.
Carlos Sainz Jr’s first qualifying session for McLaren ended in disappointment in 18th place, just over half a tenth behind Gasly.
Unsurprisingly, the final two places were filled by the Williams drivers, with George Russell the faster of the two after lapping 1.276s slower than Sainz.
Robert Kubica, in his first F1 qualifying session since the 2010 Abu Dhabi GP, was last and 1.707s behind Russell.
He was unable to improve on his second run after kissing the wall exiting the Turn 9/10 right/left, which gave him a right-rear puncture that manifested itself at the approach to Turn 11.
Provisional starting grid
|4||Max Verstappen||Red Bull/Honda||1m21.320s||0.834s|
|9||Kimi Raikkonen||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m22.314s||1.828s|
|10||Sergio Perez||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m22.781s||2.295s|
|13||Alexander Albon||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m22.636s||–|
|14||Antonio Giovinazzi||Alfa Romeo/Ferrari||1m22.714s||–|
|15||Daniil Kvyat||Toro Rosso/Honda||1m22.774s||–|
|16||Lance Stroll||Racing Point/Mercedes||1m23.017s||–|
|17||Pierre Gasly||Red Bull/Honda||1m23.020s||–|